tv U.S. Senate Dems DACA - Jeff Merkley CSPAN September 7, 2017 5:14am-5:31am EDT
a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from oregon. mr. merkley: mr. president, i want you to imagine for a moment that you're an 11-year-old child. your mother tells you to pack some things because you're going on a trip. so you pick out four or five of your favorite toys and you put them into a backpack, and you put in a bottle of water and some rosary beads as well.
and you walk out through the door of your home into the night with your mom. you don't know what's going on. you're just doing what you were told. you hold your mother's hand, and you walk in silence. and soon you are walking with 20 others through the mexican desert. you're tired and hungry and carrying everything that matters to you on your back. the sweat is pouring off. the prickly bushes scrape your body. you are overcome by dehydration and you faint. someone comes to your aid and gives you some water from their canteen. you come to, and you keep going. and eventually on this journey, you make it into the united states of america, into arizona. then out of the blue the years pass and you grow up.
14 years pass. now you're 25, 25 years old. you spent more than half your life in the united states of america. you're studying. you're going to college to get your degree in economics while working full time at the local bank to save money. you've made friends, built a life for yourself. things are going well. then all of a sudden your future, everything you had planned for in life is thrown into doubt. the president of the united states has just said that he views you as a criminal because of the decision your mother made well more than a decade before. just remember what you did, all of what your mom said.
put some things into a backpack and we're going out into the night. it doesn't matter to president trump that you had no choice in that decision. it doesn't matter to him all you've had to overcome. it doesn't matter how you've invested so seriously in being a productive part of your community. in the eyes of the president of the united states, you're a criminal. it really shouldn't be too hard to imagine that story because a story close to that is a story of some 800,000 people living in the united states, young men and women who came here as children, having nothing to do with the decision themselves. and this particular story that i read to you is a true story of an oregonian, the story that belongs to hugo nicholas, one of 11,000 dreamers living in
oregon today. like the hundreds of thousands of others brought to this country as children, through no fault of their own, hugo's future was thrown into complete chaos by the president. thrown into chaos when attorney general sessions, acting on orders from president trump, announced the cruel, heartless decision to end the deferred being -- deferred action for childhood arrivals program, the daca program. we know this program best as the program for dreamers. those young men and women who are seeking to do everything they can to have productive lives, contribute to their community and establish a financial foundation and contribute back to america, those young men and women who know no other nation, who speak no other language, who contribute to society and who are american in every way that
matters. but that's not the viewpoint president trump has. and so we here in the senate have to act. the united states is and always have been a nation of immigrants. unless one is a native american, each of us, every one of us is either an immigrant or descendant from immigrants. immigrants who were fleeing famine, immigrants who were fleeing political persecution, immigrants who were fleeing religious persecution, immigrants who were simply seeking a better life, greater opportunity, greater freedom for their family. that's the foundation on which america has been based.
our founding fathers recognized just how vital immigration was to the growth and strength of our budding nation. after all, it was james madison, the author of our constitution and our fourth president, who declared during the constitutional convention that america was indebted to immigration for her settlement and prosperity. and he continued, that part of america which encouraged generics -- immigration most has advanced most rapidly. we have always had debates and discussions about immigration. at times we've been shortsighted in banning or limiting one group or another in a generation only to turn around and welcome them with open arms in the next generation. time and time again we've overcome our prejudices. we remain true to the loving and compassionate nation we are, a nation that has welcomed others to our shores.
if we want to know the true nature of our country, we only need to look to the statue of liberty, where there before the feet of lady liberty are inscribed those words, give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. i think that line from the poet emma lazarus resonates so powerfully because we know so many lives are connected through our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents, that experience of coming to america's shores poor, tired and yearning to breathe free. generation after generation of immigrants saw lady liberty as a
welcoming symbol of freedom and opportunity as their first glimpse of america. it inspired hope and given people across the world permission to dream. but if we end daca, if we crush the dreams of these young men and women, we might as well take away those words off of the pedestal of lady liberty because we will no longer be that compassionate nation. we will no longer be that welcoming nation that has played such an instrumental role in each of our histories. i can't think of anything more damaging to the well-being or the future of our great nation, because we know that when people come here and add their distinctive cultures, beliefs and backgrounds to the melting pot of america, we become a stronger country and a stronger people.
this is especially true of our dreamers, 800,000 men and women for whom america is the only home they know, 800,000 who came here as young children, 800,000 who went to school here and made their friends here and grew up here, invested in creating a future here, young men and women who we promised if they came out of the shadows, if they did everything else right, if they obeyed the laws and met the rigorous requirements asked of them, that we would protect and look after them in this dreamer program. people like hugo nicholas whose story i just shared. ziraflores who grew up in this
country and is giving back to this country. she came here when she was 6. her younger brother was in need of medical attention and he couldn't get that attention back home in mexico, but he got it here in america. he underwent years of treatment and surgery and there upon his family decided this was their home. two decades have passed -- two decades have passed -- and now 26zera works for the state of oregon, she assists with disability programs for older adults. she didn't make the decision to come here or to stay here.
she didn't have a say in the matter. she doesn't remember her life back in mexico. attorney general sessions and president trump may say she's a criminal, but i say she's a contributing member of oregon whose done everything right to build a solid life, a contributing member to our country, and we need to pass the dream act to make sure she can continue to make these substantial contributions. it's the only right thing to do for her and it's also the right thing to do for our community. zira and hugo and the hundreds of thousands of talented young men and women just like them embody the american dream.
they have risen up from humble beginnings. they have overcome adversity to thrive. aren't these exactly the kinds of individuals that we want here in our nation? we ought to be celebrating these dreamers for all they are doing, not punishing them for choices made by their parents. the eviction of 800,000 dreamers just doesn't hurt them, it doesn't just punish them, it doesn't just damage their families, it hurts all of us because as punishing as it would be to send dreamers back to countries that they have never known, all of us will pay a
price if this is allowed to happen. we will pay the price economically. they estimated $400 million the economy would lose over the next ten years. and we would pay the price morally as our nation's standing as beacon of hope an opportunity is tarnished in the eyes of the woferld. -- of the world. if president trump won't do the right thing, if he's willing to turn his back on these 800,000 young men and women, then it's up to all of us here in congress to stand up for them. it's what many of my republican colleagues, both here in the senate and over in the house, have said they want to accomplish, including speaker ryan and majority leader mcconnell. it's what president trump's
friends in the business sector have said they want. just this past weekend 400 industry leaders -- in fact more than 400 industry leaders -- pledged their support for daca and urged the president to continue it. it's what nearly three-quarters of the american people say they want to see happen in the most recent poll. so let's listen to our business leaders. let's listen to our colleagues on both sides of the aisle. let's listen to the american people. let's listen to our hearts and our minds on this issue before us and let's act expeditiously. not in six months with days to spare before president trump's clock runs out. let's act within six days.
let's act quickly because every single day that passes now, these individuals and their extended families are in a world of pain and uncertainty and that simply isn't right. let's protect these dreamers who are here through no fault of their own, who contribute an enormous amount to our country, and who are american in every single way that matters. mr. president, to paraphrase president madison, we are a nation that is indebted to immigration for our incredible success. we cannot, we must not renege on that debt by turning our back on the dreamers. it would undermined our nation's moral standing, it would hurt our economy, it is cruel, it is